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CCI fines Karnataka film and TV bodies guilty of preventing non-Kannada programming into state

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NEW DELHI: Holding them guilty of anti-competitive practices, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a fine of Rs 20.24 lakh on three organisations of TV and filmmakers by banning or prohibiting the release of dubbed television serials and feature films in Karnataka.

A bench headed by CCI chairperson Ashok Chawla ordered that Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), Karnataka Television Association (KTVA), and Kannada Film Producers Association (KFPA) should deposit the amount of penalty imposed upon them within 60 days of the receipt of the order and file a compliance report within six months. The Bench also comprised members S L Bunker, Sudhir Mital, Augustine Peter, and U C Nahta.

KFCC is to pay penalty of Rs 16.82 lakh calculated at the rate of 10 per cent of its average income for three financial years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11; while a penalty on KTVA of Rs 1.74 lakh and Rs 1.68 lakh on KFPA - calculated at the rate of eight per cent of their average incomes for three financial years 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 has been imposed on them.

The Commission did not find the Karnataka Film Directors Association (KFDA), Kannada Chalanachitra Academy (KCA) and Karnataka Film Artists, Workers and Technicians Union (KFAWTU) guilty of any malpractice as they were not involved in the production of films or television series.

The Commission directed KFCC, KTVA and KFPA to ‘cease and desist from indulging in practices, which are found to be anti-competitive in terms of the provisions of section 3(1) read with section 3(3)(b) of the Act.’  It also asked the bodies to bring in place, in letter and in spirit, a Competition Compliance Manual to educate its members about the basic tenets of competition law principles. These erring associations should play an active role in creating awareness amongst its members of the provisions of the Act through competition advocacy. 

The director general of the Commission who examined the veracity of the complaint by viewers body Kannada Grahakara Koota and its president Ganesh Chetan found that the history of ban on dubbing of films in Kannada may be traced back to late fifties and early sixties. In 1962 the local film makers under the banner of Sahitya Parishath, an organisation for the development of Kannada culture and language) declared a ban on dubbed films in Karnataka. After this declaration, reportedly no dubbed film has been released in Karnataka. Although there is no legal restriction on dubbing or release of a dubbed film in India or in Karnataka, yet due to boycott or ban imposed by the film trade associations and some other organisations the dubbed films in Kannada language are not made or released. 

The DG also found that there were cases of vandalism when some TV channel attempted to show a programme, and a Kannada producer was banned from releasing a film despite his claims that it was a Kannada film. Actor-producer Aamir Khan said he had written to the bodies to allow the telecast of dubbed versions of Satyamev Jayate, but without success.

Referring to a similar order given by the Commission in regard to KFCC, it noted, “It is abundantly clear that KFCC has been found to be indulging in anti-competitive conduct in various cases. This is a case of continuous violation of the provisions of the Act and of complete disregard to the competition law principles.” 

The penalty was imposed “having regard to the nature of anti-competitive conduct and its recurrence."

With regard to penalty under section 27 of the Act, the Commission said it has to be determined after taking into account the aggravating and mitigating factors pertaining to each contravening Party. Further, the anti-competitive conduct needs to be penalized sufficiently to cause deterrence in future among the erring entities engaged in such activities. 

The Commission said any form of restriction to deny market access to other language films or programmes is not justified. It should be the choice of a film producer or artiste as to whether his film should be dubbed in other language or not. Similarly the viewer should have the choice as to which movie or programme to watch. Restrictions cannot be imposed on the film exhibitors and distributors and television channels to exploit the exhibition of validly obtained rights of a film or programme. Any kind of regulation or restriction by an association falls foul of competition law provisions. 

The Commission agreed with the findings of the DG that the conduct of the three bodies clearly results in limiting and restricting the market of dubbed films/serials in Kannada language in contravention of section 3(1) read with section 3(3)(b) of the Act. 

Some other programmes not permitted since 1999 included Doordarshan series Ramayanaand The Sword of Tipu Sultan, and programmes like Rani Jhansi and Luv Kush made by private channels, apart from Telugu programmes dubbed in Kannada.

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